NEW YORK — The last time the New York Giants faced the Cleveland Browns in a regular season game was on Monday, Oct. 13, 2008, on the road, in a game that many anticipated the then undefeated Giants would dominate their 1-3 opponent.
Such was not the case, however, as Tom Coughlin watched his team suffer a 35-14 beating in a game in which the Browns, coming off a bye week, looked more like the defending Super Bowl champions at the time while the Giants played a flat, uninspired game.
This weekend, while many of the names and place of the venue have changed, the circumstances mirror those of that last meeting.
The Giants are once again the defending Super Bowl champions and despite having a 2-2 record thus far, a loss to the winless Browns could have severe repercussions for a team looking to get back on track following last week’s emotionally draining 19-17 loss to the Eagles.
Coughlin said he hasn’t forgotten what happened then, and he’s sure that the 14 players who were on that team haven’t forgotten about it either.
One player who was around back then is quarterback Eli Manning, who seemed surprised that it was brought up.
“Four years ago — those get wiped away pretty quickly. New team, new players, new coaches on that side, so we’ve just got to make sure we handle our business and try to go out there and play our best game.”
Manning said his objective is the same whether he’s facing an opponent last seen four years ago or four days ago.
“I’m always driven to get better, and have a great game plan, and go out there and practice well, and take those reps into the game. This is the NFL and every game is important, every game is tough, and every team is good and talented. If you’re not 100 percent committed and bought in, then you are going to lose.”
For his part, Coughlin also realizes that the Browns will be visiting with a new cast of characters, one that he cautioned should not be taken lightly despite its current won-loss record.
“Don’t be misled by Cleveland’s record. They’re a good, young team,” he said. “You saw the Thursday Night Game against Baltimore — very close game, it was 23-16. If the linebacker catches the ball in the end zone, they beat the Eagles. They play tough in all of their games.”
Giants center David Baas wasn’t on the team when New York suffered that letdown against the Browns in 2008, but he fully concurred with Coughlin’s words of caution.
“They’re hungry for a win — but we are too,” he said.
Linebacker Michael Boley, who also wasn’t on the team back then, said that Coughlin wasn’t simply being polite in his assessment of the Browns.
“They are a lot better than their record presents,” he said. “I think from what we saw the biggest margin of loss they’ve had was 10 points. They have been in every game that they have played, losing the first game by a point. This is a good young team, they got a lot of talent and a lot of guys that can make plays.”
While Coughlin isn’t concerned about any lingering effects from the last meeting with the Browns four years ago, the question was raised about the state of his Giants after their emotionally draining loss to the Eagles and the effect that might have on this week’s game.
“We’ve got to move on. It’s over. It’s done with,” he said. “We’ve spent a couple of days lamenting and we move on. We’ve got to get going here, and have a good work day, and have a good session out there, in our meetings, and feel like we’re taking a step forward in our preparation for a good, young team.”
“It’s the next game,” Boley said. “It was a disappointing loss for us, second division loss at that. With that we are looking to bounce back and rebound.”
ABOUT THE BROWNS (0-4): Cleveland, which is 0-4 for the third time since 1998, hasn’t won since last November. While the offense has its own issues, it’s clear the defense sorely misses Haden. Joe Flacco passed for 356 yards and the combination of Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin torched the Browns’ shorthanded secondary for 15 catches, 228 yards and a touchdown. Rookie QB Brandon Weeden has shown marked improvement as the season has progressed, but his poor throw on an out route against Baltimore led to Cary Williams’ back-breaking 63-yard interception return. Overall, the Browns have struggled to generate offense (18.2 ppg) and are lacking playmakers aside from RB Trent Richardson, who leads AFC rookies with 222 rushing yards and has a rushing touchdown in three straight games. Dynamic KR/WR Josh Cribbs, who was knocked unconscious on a kickoff return against the Ravens, returned to practice Wednesday and is listed as probable.
ABOUT THE GIANTS (2-2): The Giants were unable to corral Michael Vick when they did have a shot at him Sunday night in Philadelphia. They were even less effective in their attempts to stop LeSean McCoy, who ran for 121 of his 123 yards in the second half. The banged-up secondary took another hit as safety Kenny Phillips suffered a sprained MCL. He is listed as doubtful. As for the offense, it looked out-of-synch against Philadelphia. Eli Manning, who was under duress a majority of the night, finished 24-of-42 for 309 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Manning is second in the NFL with 1,320 yards. He’ll once again be without Nicks, who has missed the last two games due to foot and knee injuries. Domenik Hixon filled in nicely with six catches for 114 yards against the Eagles and Victor Cruz, who leads the league in catches (32) and is fifth in yards (388), hauled in nine passes for 109 yards and a touchdown.
EXTRA POINTS: 1. This is the first meeting since 2008, when the Browns ended a four-game losing streak to the Giants with a 35-14 victory. Cleveland intercepted Manning three times. 2. The 28-year-old Weeden set a Browns’ rookie record with 320 yards last week. 3. Manning has won seven straight starts against the AFC dating to last season.